Terry Collins said with the Mets beginning to get some of their players back, he thinks he might start to see a new team.
Well, maybe next game.
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Even with the return of Daniel Murphy to the middle of the lineup, the Mets' offensive futility continued on Tuesday night in a 1-0 loss to the Cubs.
"I felt pretty good," said Murphy, who hadn't played since June 4 because of a strained quadriceps. "I would have liked to have got more hits."
As would his teammates.
The Mets mustered only three hits in six innings against Kyle Hendricks, one of which was a double by Murphy in the fourth inning. The Cubs' bullpen didn't allow a hit over the final three innings to close out another game in which the Mets wasted a quality pitching performance by Jon Niese, who allowed one run over seven innings.
"It's a frustrating loss," said Murphy, who went 1-for-4. "Jon threw the ball really well. I had some pitches to hit there. Lucas [Duda] worked such a good walk [before] my third at bat. I get a positive count, I get a breaking ball to hit, and I missed it ... that's frustrating, but if we keep getting good starting pitching, we'll come around on offense."
Collins believes the return of Murphy, who led the Mets with a .289 batting average last season, would ignite that turnaround by taking pressure off the hitters around him in the order, such as Michael Cuddyer and Duda, and helping them get better pitches to hit.
"This guy made the All-Star team last year," Collins said before Tuesday night's game. "It's nice to have an All-Star back in the middle of your lineup. So I think it will help Cuddy, I think it will help Lucas. Dan's used to having been put in those positions before."
Collins also said Murphy moving from second base to third base to fill in for the injured David Wright helps solidify the defense. Murphy's return allows Ruben Tejada to play shortstop regularly, which Collins said allows each player to finally be in a spot they felt comfortable in defensively.
"I've said it to Dan, right to his face," Collins said, "if David Wright wasn't on this team he would be the third baseman on this team. So, I think he's very good over at third base. I think he's comfortable over there."
But the offense is a much larger concern. And the return of Murphy, who flied out to center to end the game, could prove to be even more important should the Mets be without Cuddyer, who exited Tuesday's game early with a knee injury and is scheduled for an MRI on Wednesday.
"I told Dan today, you can't come back at a better time, we've been struggling offensively," Collins said. "He's a huge part of our lineup. We need him back in there, He's been swinging great which is good news for us. But I think you'll see a different middle of the lineup."
Well, maybe next game.